Scottish Oceans Institute, University of St Andrews (USTAN)

Scottish Oceans Institute, University of St Andrews (USTAN)

Research Infrastructure affiliation: EMBRC

Location: St Andrews, Scotland

Website address:

Local Access Officer: Prof. Axel Miller (, dr. Huanting Liu (
For questions related to SSPF, please contact dr. Huanting Liu (



The Scottish Oceans Institute (SOI) is an interdisciplinary research institute studying the marine environment and which forms a key focus for research excellence in marine-related science. Our research ranges from the deep oceans to the coasts, and from the people who use and interact with the sea, to the biological and physical processes that make the oceans function. SOI aims to develop scholarship, commercialization of research and advanced-level teaching delivered through contributing Schools at the University of St Andrews. SOI also hosts the “Marine Alliance for Science and Technology for Scotland” (MASTS), an £18 million Scottish Government Initiative.  Research at the SOI addresses challenges in marine science of high importance to society including climate change, food security, biodiversity and ecosystem services, marine noise and marine mammal conservation. The SOI has world renown in the design and manufacture of animal-borne sensors and in the development of statistical methods in ecology. The marine laboratory occupies a beach-front location, giving boats direct access to the sea via an adjacent slipway. The SOI is within easy distance of a variety of North Sea habitats including rocky coast, estuaries and sandy beaches including areas of special scientific interest and conservation for habitats, birds and seals.

Alongside of the SOI, the Scottish Structural Proteomics Facility (SSPF) at Biomedical Sciences Research Complex (BSRC), University of St Andrews has an outstanding track record on structural biology (over 200 papers). It has well-established cutting edge protein expression, purification, crystallization, structure determination and biological pathway reconstitution facility with well over 100 protein structures have been determined and some of these were engineered for biological pathway reconstitutions. 


The SOI features state of the art laboratories nested in a charismatic marine location. The University of St Andrews is further enhancing the facilities with a £10 14 Million development of state-of-the-art infrastructure including aquaria, laboratories and environmental control facilities fed for the local seawater. The aquarium comprises an ambient sea water circulation for fish and invertebrates, environmentally controlled warm water and cold water recirculation systems and a Home Office Licensed facility. The largest seal experimental facility in Europe was completed in 1998 comprising a main 40 m pool and ancillary pools for behavioural and physiological studies. Facilities include well-equipped laboratories for molecular, physiological, behavioural and ecological studies. Specialist facilities include a flume for sediment studies, laminar flow hoods for tissue culture and laser scanning confocal and scanning electron microscopes and facilities for the design and manufacture of animal-borne sensors and instrumentation.

The SSPF developed its own gene cloning, protein expression and purification systems. Gene cloning system is developed based on HisTEV/GFP system and Gateway cloning enable the cloned genes to be expressed in E. coli, yeast or insect cells. Protein expression and purification are equipped with large refrigerated incubators, magnetic protein expression assay, automated protein purification system including fluorescent-detection size exclusion chromatography (FSEC), size exclusion chromatography multi-angle laser light scatter (SECMALLS). The SSPF benefits from state of the art mass spectrometry facility, liquid handling robotics and x-ray data collection equipment. The x-ray facility houses two Art Robbins Gryphon crystallization robots, suitable for setting up 96-well crystallization plates of soluble and membrane proteins. In addition, they can be used for seeding experiments. A Scorpion liquid handling workstation is installed for crystallization optimization. The lab has a Rigaku Alchemist HT for preparation of crystallization optimization screens, and Rigaku Minstrel HT imaging system with both 4C and 20C incubators capable of storing and imaging 1200x96-well plates. For data collection, the lab has a Rigaku MM007HFM x-ray source with two ports, one fully manual and the other with an ACTOR robotic sample changer capable of automatically screening up to 40 samples.  Synchrotron beamlines including BM14, ID14-1, -2, -4, ID29 and ID 23-1 and -2 at the ESRF and IO2 and IO3 at the Diamond light source are regularly accessed for X-ray data collection of micro crystals. SSPF at St Andrews has the facility and expertise in enzyme engineering and biological pathway reconstitution for bio-metabolite productions. 


The SOI offers the largest seal experimental facility in Europe comprising a main 40 m pool and ancillary pools for behavioural and physiological studies; well-equipped laboratories for molecular, physiological, behavioural and ecological studies; Environmental Access via the swordsman research vessel and associated ribs to local rocky shore, estuarine and sandy sites. The SOI also provides access to fully controlled environmental laboratories, including aquarium tanks, mescosms and flumes. The SOI offers fish husbandry and experimental facilities including state-of-the-art genomics laboratories and chemical analytical services. Microscopy & Bio-imaging offers assisted access to electron microscopy (SEM), confocal microscopy, live-imaging, digital imaging and microinjection.

SSPF provides the full support for gene cloning, protein expression, purification in E. coli, insect cells and yeast for research purpose or commercial application. The SSPF also provides the full support for protein identification, crystallisation and structure determination using its state of the art facility and methodology for protein engineering and biological pathway reconstitution. 

Support offered

TA-users will have access to laboratory space, office accommodation, and administrative and logistic support. They will be advised on safety issue and best practise promoted.  Service staff will provide the required training and assist with troubleshooting. Other amenities include local restaurants and nearby hotels and student accommodation, which can be arranged with sufficient notice. A local administrator will be assigned to assist with lodging reservations and offer advice on travel requirements. Users can attend weekly research seminars, and will be invited to present research foster engagement and future collaborations. This support to external visitors is standard operational procedure.

Reimbursement procedures

Download here the guide for reimbursement procedures for travel and subsistence in place at HCMR.
Reimbursement procedures will be specified in the User Access Contract. National and institutional rules apply. 
Please contact dr. Ian Johnston ( for further info.